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Colorful tree frog of Costa Rica

Costa Rica and Panama Canal

Example 12 Day Cruise aboard Greg Mortimer
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Take the opportunity to explore Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia & the Panama Canal on this 11-day cruise aboard Greg Mortimer. Hike through virgin rainforest, look out for acrobatic dolphin pods, swim and snorkel in splendid isolation where the jungle meets the ocean, Zodiac cruise upriver to meet Emberá Mogue, an indigenous community living in the Darién jungle, before crossing the iconic Panama Canal. In Cartagena de Indias, soak up the Afro-Caribbean vibes in this vibrant and colorful UNESCO-protected fort city.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : San Jose, Costa Rica
Day 2 : Puerto Caldera | Embark
Day 3 : Curú National Wildlife Refuge
Day 4 : Manuel Antonio National Park
Days 5-6 : Osa Peninsula and Gulfo Dulce
Day 7 : Coiba National Park, Panama
Day 8 : Panama City
Day 9 : Panama Canal Crossing
Day 10 : At Sea
Day 11 : Cartagena de Indias, Colombia | Disembark
Day 12 : Cartagena de Indias, Colombia


  • Experience an unforgettable daylight crossing of the extraordinary Panama Canal
  • Enjoy a warm welcome by the indigenous Emberá Mogue community in Panama’s Darién Jungle
  • Meet blue-footed, red-footed, and Nazca boobies at ‘Poor Man’s Galápagos’ – Isla de la Plata
  • Discover the staggering beauty of Colombia’s Chocó region
  • Soak up the colonial splendor of UNESCO-listed Cartagena’s old town


Greg Mortimer

Places Visited


Trip Type

  • Small Ship

Activity Level


Trip Snapshots

Panama City's Bridge of the Americas Colorful tree frog of Costa Rica Spotting wildlife in the jungle Sunset over Cartagena Hiking Costa Rica's stunning rainforests

Day 1 San Jose, Costa Rica

In San José, make your own way to the group hotel and enjoy time at leisure. 

Day 2 Puerto Caldera | Embark

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After a leisurely buffet breakfast, check-out of your room and drive two-hours west to Puerto Caldera where your vessel Greg Mortimer awaits. After boarding, you’ll have time to settle into your cabin before the important briefings before sitting down to enjoy lunch as you sail to Isla Tortuga (Turtle Island). You can relax on the white sand beach or venture into the warm water to swim, snorkel or dive. The water is teeming with a dizzying array of fish and other creatures including manta rays, spinner dolphins and perhaps sharks. There are even some buried treasures there – literally. There are three shipwrecks off the shore of the island, offering plenty of opportunities to explore the remains of sunken vessels. At Isla Tortuga, we will do our kayak orientation and have your first introductory paddle. This evening, get to know your fellow expeditioners and friendly expedition team and crew at a welcome dinner to celebrate the start of a thrilling adventure to Costa Rica and Panama

Day 3 Curú National Wildlife Refuge

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Curú National Wildlife Refuge is a privately owned and managed nature preserve offering visitors some of the best eco-tourism experiences in Costa Rica. The refuge is the first privately owned refuge in Costa Rica and is an example of a successful sustainable development program, offering over 3700 acres of tropical forests, mangrove swamps, and grassy fields sitting right along the coastline. 17 hiking trails wind through the varied terrain and you may see white-tail deer or catch a glimpse of armadillos or iguanas. Monkeys are prolific including the native capuchin, spider, and howler monkeys. Located on the southern Nicoya Peninsula of northwestern Costa Rica, the area is teeming with abundant wildlife and hosts one of the most beautiful beaches and protected bays on the Nicoya Peninsula, where you can hope to go for a paddle and swim.

Day 4 Manuel Antonio National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Boasting over 100 species of mammals, 184 species of birds and a plethora of diverse flora, Manuel Antonio National Park is a paradise for wildlife lovers. Costa Rica’s star attractions - two and three toed sloths, white-faced monkeys and toucans can all be found on hikes that weave through the park. Hiking trails snake their way through the parkland offering access to its rainforest, waterfalls and remote white sand beaches whilst from the water we can snorkel, kayak and paddleboard to view the exquisite coral. Anchor off the shores of Espadilla Beach and Zodiac to shore for a wet landing. Walk along this soft-sand beach or follow a trail through the rainforest parallel to the beach to get to Playa Manuel Antonio, which is the most popular beach inside the park. It’s a short, deep crescent of white sand backed by lush rainforest. There are numerous clearly-marked hiking trails to choose from - a circular loop trail (1.4km/0.9 mile) around a high promontory bluff, which includes a visit to the highest point on this hike – Punta Catedral, which offers spectacular views, takes approximately 25 to 30 minutes return. The hiking trails in Manuel Antonio National Park offer excellent opportunities to spot monkeys, sometimes sloths, agoutis, armadillos and coatis.

Day 5-6 Osa Peninsula and Gulfo Dulce

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Over the next two days, explore the untamed Osa Peninsula, considered by National Geographic to be ‘one of the most biologically intense places on Earth’. Considered to be the crown jewel of Costa Rica's park system, Corcovado National Park is the country's largest and one of the most remote parks in Costa Rica. It is home to the largest and only tropical primary lowland rainforest in the world, provides habitat for a plethora of endangered plant and animal species including the scarlet macaw, various frogs, and the tapir - the largest terrestrial mammal in Central and South America. In order to conserve the integrity of the national park, restrictions are placed on the capacity of daily visitors permitted in the park. We therefore hike through a private conservation reserve adjoining the national park looking not only for wildlife, but also to experience the incredible wet tropical rainforest filled with tall trees measuring over 60 metres/197 ft, lianas, epiphytes, palms, gingers and orchids. You will also visit nearby Caño Island Biological Reserve, located only 20 kilometres/12.4 miles offshore from the Osa Peninsula, an island of incredible geographical and archeological importance. This 300-hectare piece of land was formerly a cemetery or burial ground dating back to the pre-Columbian era. Visitors are only permitted to visit the island for a maximum of 15 minutes. However, the blue waters surrounding the island are ideal for diving, snorkelling and kayaking. With excellent underwater visibility, it is often possible to spot sea turtles, dolphins, stingrays, manta rays, moray eels, barracudas, tuna, snapper and grouper swimming alongside a variety sharks and humpback or pilot whales. Since the island is a reserve, scuba diving numbers are regulated to a maximum of 10, and the removal of any marine life is strictly forbidden. The following day, we will round the peninsula’ most southern point to enter Gulfo Dulce, or Sweet Gulf. The large bay hugs pristine beaches, rivers and tall evergreen forest, a protected area known as the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. As one of the wettest places on Earth with over 200 inches/5000 mm of rainfall a year, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve boasts some of the tallest ancient trees. Established in 1979, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve was created to protect the lowland forested areas that surround the gulf – the reserve also connecting other national parks in the area. Visit a private reserve called Casa Orchideas (Orchid House), akin to a botanical garden adjoining Piedras Blancas National Park. A hike in Casa Orchideas allows you to appreciate colourful orchids, heliconias, palms, and all the tropical wildlife such as toucans, macaws, tanagers, and honey creepers that feed from the flowers. The warm tropical waters in the gulf are a popular playground for dolphins - perfect for snorkelling, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and Zodiac cruising.

Day 7 Coiba National Park, Panama

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Leaving Costa Rica behind, sail through the Panamanian islands of Coiba National Park, located off the southwest coast of Panama and inscribed as by UNESCO as a place of outstanding universal value. The national park protects Coiba Island, 38 smaller islands and the surrounding marine areas within the Gulf of Chiriqui. Protected from the cold winds and effects of El Niño, Coiba’s Pacific tropical moist forest maintains exceptionally high levels of endemism of mammals, birds and plants due to the ongoing evolution of new species. It is also the last refuge for a number of threatened animals such as the crested eagle. The property is an outstanding natural laboratory for scientific research and provides a key ecological link to the Tropical Eastern Pacific for the transit and survival of pelagic fish and marine mammals. Due to Coiba Island (the main island in the archipelago) previously serving as a penal colony, access to the island was heavily restricted. As a result, nearly 80 per cent of the islands' natural resources have remained untouched and flourished because of limited human contact. Coiba National Park is managed by the National Authority for the Environment (ANAM) and is accessible only by permit from ANAM. With its designations as a National Park and UNESCO protection, Isla Coiba, its surrounding waters and island neighbours have been given a greater degree of protection. Despite being subject to poaching, illegal logging and other trespasses, the Panamanian government has taken a large step in their preservation. On Coiba Island, hike through untouched tropical jungle, home to mantled howler monkeys, crested eagles, and sea turtles. We aim to stop at Granito de Oro islet, a unique place which offers the casual snorkeller a diversity and volume of marine life that many avid scuba divers spend their lives trying to see. The waters surrounding are considered one of the best diving destinations in the world. Enjoy the day snorkelling among abundant marine life, kayaking around rocky outcroppings, and basking on the warm sand.

Day 8 Panama City

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Three million years ago, the Isthmus of Panama emerged from the sea and changed the world forever. It divided an ocean and joined two continents together, triggering one of the most important natural evolution events in the history of the world. Today, this narrow land bridge in Central America is home to more species of birds and trees than the whole of North America. Panama is of course world-famous for its 77-kilometre (48-mile) canal that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean. Panama’s history has been formed by a rich pre-Columbian era for more than 12,000 years. Early cultures in Panama were the Monagrillo, the Cueva and the Conte, particularly famous for their pottery, which was the first in the Americas. The first European claiming the territory of today’s Panama was Rodrigo de Bastidas, coming from Colombia’s Atlantic coast in 1501. A year later Columbus was sailing from Honduras over Costa Rica along the Caribbean shore to Panama to map this coastline. He discovered the Chagres River and after two months he reached the bay of Portobelo. In 1513 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa became the first Spaniard to see the Pacific Ocean from the top of a hill. Four days later he and his men stood at the shores of the new ocean. In 1519 Panama City was founded and became an important hub on the way from Peru to Spain. The Peruvian Inca gold and silver was shipped on the Pacific to Panama City, crossed the Isthmus overland before being shipped again to Spain. In 1671 the notorious English buccaneer Henry Morgan looted and completely destroyed Panama City. These ruins of Panama la Vieja (Old Panama) are nowadays open to visitors. In the same decade, a new Panama City was constructed 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) away on a better suited place – today’s Casco Viejo. Shore Excursions (choose one of the following): Miraflores Visitor Centre and Colonial City Tour at “Casco Viejo” At the Miraflores Visitor Centre, you will find different activities to learn and fully enjoy the Panama Canal. In the cinema, watch a short 10-minute film on the history of the Panama Canal from its beginnings to the present. Four exhibition halls portray the Canal's history and biodiversity, while three terraces and observation decks are ideal places for observing the Canal's operation, the passage of ships through the locks and how they move. Inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites in 1997, Panama City’s Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) is a compact treasure trove of 16th and 17th century colonial architecture. The oldest continuously occupied European city in the Americas on the Pacific coast, Panama Viejo as it is now known was founded in 1519. The excursion includes visits to two exceptional sites as well as a guided walk around the historic quarter and the cobblestone streets for a leisurely look at many historic landmarks including: Plaza Herrera, San José Church, Plaza Francia, Plaza Bolívar with the San Francisco de Asis Church, Plaza Mayor (where the Metropolitan Cathedral is located). After the tour, you have the option of exploring Casco Viejo at your own pace or return to the ship. A shuttle service will be available to transfer you back to the ship if you extend your time in the old town. Gatun Lake Expedition & Walking Tour at “Casco Viejo” Gatun Lake is a large artificial lake with a unique ecosystem that forms a major part of the Panama Canal, carrying ships for 33 km (20 miles) on their transit across the Isthmus of Panama. At the time it was created, Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world. The vegetation at Gatun Lake offers ideal habitats for a large number of bird species. The excursion starts with boat trip heading north on the Canal for 25 minutes where we may get close to some of the larger ships that transit the canal daily. Enjoy a slow cruise along the forested banks of Gatun Lake, a protected area, looking for wildlife such as Capuchin Monkeys, three-toed sloth, howler monkeys, various kinds of toucans and other bird life. This is a place to observe the raw regenerative power of the forest as it struggles to claim what was once wild. Enjoy lunch at a resort located in the shores of the Gatun Lake. Afterwards, head to Casco Viejo, Panama’s historic colonial centre listed as a UNESCO world heritage site filled with delightful colonial houses, narrow cobblestone streets and impressive churches. In the “Casco Antiguo” lies French Park, a monument to the French builders who started the Panama Canal. Some superb museums are found in the Old Quarter, including the Canal Museum, which traces Panama's history. Transfer back to the ship or explore Casco Viejo at your own pace. A scheduled shuttle service will transfer you back to the ship.

Day 9 Panama Canal Crossing

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Crossing the Panama Canal will surely be a highlight for many travelers. Each year, over a million people visit the canal to witness this engineering marvel at work. Starting in the Pacific Ocean, you will be able to admire the Bay of Panama and Panama City’s splendorous skyline before passing under the ‘Bridge of the Americas’. The vessel will pass through three sets of lakes and locks - Miraflores, Pedro Miguel, and Gatun, before reaching the Atlantic Ocean in approximately 10 hours, a journey that once almost took two weeks, where vessels were forced to sail around the notoriously rough seas around Cape Horn at the bottom of South America to reach the Pacific coast.

Day 10 At Sea

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy a few final presentations from the team of experts including how to edit photos, finish that book you’ve been reading, or simply relax on your private balcony or in one of the many shared spaces on board the ship.

Day 11 Cartagena de Indias, Colombia | Disembark

Disembark in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, listed by UNESCO as a site of Outstanding Universal Heritage, the city’s rich history, diverse culture and energy captivates visitors allowing them a glimpse into the city’s past and also a chance to relax in superb surroundings. This passionate and vibrant city, with some of the best-preserved colonial architecture in all of South America exudes character; mix in African rhythms and indigenous influences with the Spanish colonial splendour, and Cartagena is truly an amazing destination to extend your holiday. Founded in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena was formerly the gateway port to the Caribbean used by the Spanish. Here they would store the riches plundered from the interior before they were transported back to the old world. It is not surprising therefore that the city drew the attention of buccaneers and pirates who attempted on many occasions to seize the city, most notably by Sir Francis Drake in 1586, who "mercifully" agreed not to destroy the city in return for 10 million pesos that he carted back to England. It was after the attack by Drake that plans were made to fortify the city and work on the defensive fort walls began. These walls still stand today and mark the boundary between the old and new parts of the city. The walls and fort took a total of 200 years to build and complete, and the Spanish finished them just 25 years before Colombia gained Independence. Carved from a colourful history rife of piracy, sultry Caribbean heat, with fusions of African, indigenous and European culture, Cartagena is Colombia’s living, breathing and pulsating museum. Absurdly photogenic, the old quarter awards even the laziest of travellers. Colour splashes every corner, balconies overflow with blossom, and energy seeps beneath the ancient wooden doors of hotels, restaurants and private houses. Today’s introductory tour will take you through Cartagena’s old town under the Puerta Del Reloj (Clock tower entrance) into the Plaza de los Coches. Your expert local guide will tell stories of the myths and legends, histories and stories of Cartagena from ancient times right up to the present. From the Plaza San Pedro Claver with its stunning Church, to the Plaza Bolivar with its shady areas, where you can watch the world go by. Cartagena is steeped in history and it’s a delight to stroll the streets accompanied by a knowledgeable local to show you around. During the walk you will visit the Inquisition Palace, considered one of the most elegant and characteristic colonial constructions in Cartagena in the 17th century. In September 1610, the Spanish established the inquisition in Cartagena de Indias, where its jurisdiction covered the kingdom of Granada and Venezuela until reaching Nicaragua, Panama, Santa Domingo and the Barlovento Islands. Throughout its interior, visitors to the palace museum will find instruments of torture and prison cells. A short walk away and your final stop is a visit to San Pedro Claver Cloister, monastery and museum built in homage to the protector of slaves, San Pedro, and serves as reminder of the turbulent past of Cartagena and indeed the Americas. The Cloister where Pedro Claver lived and died has become a special place of silence, and reflection – a shrine to the life's work of this extraordinary man. Here, visitors will find examples of pre-Colombian ceramics and a museum filled with religious art objects. Adjoining the monastery is a baroque church designed by German and Dutch architects, where the remains of Saint Pedro Claver is enshrined. The tour ends with a transfer to your group hotel. After check-in, enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.

Day 12 Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

After breakfast, say farewell your fellow travellers and check-out of your room before making your own way to the airport for your onward journey.

Greg Mortimer

Cartagena - Hotels

San Jose - Hotels

Per person starting at
Greg Mortimer-Aurora Stateroom Triple
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Aurora Stateroom Triple
6 rooms available. All include en-suite bathrooms, three single beds, porthole window, desk area and 42" flat-screen TV
Greg Mortimer
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Aurora Stateroom Twin
Greg Mortimer features 8 porthole rooms, all with private en-suites. Located on Deck 3, they're close to the mudroom and loading platforms, perfect for adventurers who are looking for a comfortable base that's close to the action.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Stateroom C
14 rooms available. All include en-suite bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows and balconies and a select number are also connecting rooms, perfect for families or groups.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Stateroom B
22 rooms available. All include en-suite bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows and balconies and a select number are also connecting rooms, perfect for families or groups.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Stateroom A
22 rooms available. All include en-suite bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows and balconies and a select number are also connecting rooms, perfect for families or groups.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Suite
With a bit more room to stretch the legs, the Greg Mortimer's two Balcony Suites are perfect for polar adventurers who travel with plenty of gear. Featuring private balconies, en-suite bathrooms and a comfortable desk area, these will sell out quickly!
Greg Mortimer
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Junior Suite
The Greg Mortimer's four Junior Suites take in some impressive scenery from their vantage points on Deck 7. When you aren't enjoying a landing, you can relax in the suites' separate lounge area, or just watch the world float by from the private balcony.
Greg Mortimer
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Captain's Suite
The largest of all the rooms, the Greg Mortimer's singular Captain's Suite will take you to the polar regions in ultimate style and comfort. Complete with large lounge area, balcony, walk-in wardrobe and en-suite.


Important note: due to strict regulations enforced by local environmental authorities to conserve and protect the pristine places visited on this voyage, permits can be cancelled by authorities at any time with very little notice. Under such circumstances, Aurora Expeditions reserves the right to change our itineraries with little or no prior notice.

Voyage Inclusions:
  • One night’s hotel accommodation with breakfast in San Jose on day 1
  • Half day San Jose city tour on day 2
  • Luggage transfer from your hotel to ship on day 2
  • One night’s hotel accommodation in Cartagena de Indias on day 11
  • On-board accommodation during voyage including daily cabin service
  • All meals, snacks, tea and coffee during voyage
  • Beer, house wine and soft drinks with dinner
  • All shore excursions and Zodiac cruises mentioned in the itinerary
  • Educational lectures and guiding services from expedition team
  • Access to our onboard doctor and basic medical services
  • Complimentary dry bag backpack
  • Complimentary loan of muck boots during the voyage
  • Comprehensive pre-departure information
  • A printed photo book produced with photos from your voyage
  • Gratuities for crew will automatically be added to your bill. Please advise at the time of settlement if you would like this to be removed
  • Port surcharges, permits and landing fees
Voyage Exclusions:
  • International or domestic flights to or within Central America, unless specified
  • Transfers not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Airport arrival or departure taxes
  • Passport, visa, reciprocity fees and vaccination charges
  • Travel insurance or emergency evacuation charges
  • Hotels and meals not included in itinerary
  • Optional excursions not included in the itinerary
  • Optional activity surcharges
  • All items of a personal nature including but not limited to: alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (except during dinner), laundry services, personal clothing, medical expenses, gratuities, Wi-Fi, email, or phone charges
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The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.
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